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Learning About Compression Devices to Prevent Blood Clots

What is a compression device?

A compression device has sleeves that fit around your legs, with tubes that connect the sleeves to a pump. The device is sometimes called an intermittent or sequential compression device. The pump inflates different sections of the sleeves, squeezing from bottom to top to help the blood in your legs move to your heart.

The compression and massaging help prevent blood clots. Clots can form in the veins when you are not active for a long period of time. This can happen if you need to stay in bed after surgery or if you have a health condition or illness that makes your blood more likely to clot.

It's important to prevent blood clots because they can be painful and dangerous. A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in certain veins of the legs, pelvis, or arms. The clot is most often in the legs. The clots can get bigger, break loose, and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs. A blood clot in a lung can be life-threatening.

A compression device keeps the blood moving in your legs while you are in the hospital and not moving around much.

What can you expect?

Your nurse will put the sleeves on your legs, check the fit, and turn on the device. The sleeves will squeeze and release your legs. The pressure will make the sleeves feel snug when they inflate, but it should not feel painful. Sometimes a sleeve is used on one leg instead of both legs.

Your nurse may check to make sure that the sleeves fit properly. The nurse may also check your skin for irritation or any other problems.

How can you help with your own care?

It's important to wear the sleeves as much as you can, even while you sleep. It may feel a bit uncomfortable at times. But the device helps protect you from life-threatening blood clots.

If you feel pain, your skin gets irritated, or you feel too hot, tell a member of your care team. If you need to use the washroom or bathe, ask your nurse to take off the sleeves so you can get up. Don't turn off the device or try to take off the sleeves by yourself. Keep the sleeves on when you're in bed. And keep using them until your doctor says you don't need them anymore.

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